1926 – 2018
Like so many other, I was deeply affected when I heard that Pompano Bill had passed away. At first, I went into a deep silence and just wanted to be alone to collect my thoughts. A sense of calm overcame me as I thought that Bill had just ended a spectacular journey we call life on earth. Bill and I often talked about our community, politics and of course, gossip. One thing is certain, I came to trust him like a father. In our last conversation he shared with me the fact that he decided not to undergo Chemotherapy while in the hospital. I refused to consider that he was telling me his time had come. Denial, as you know, is one of the first phases of dealing with grief. Ironically, as I checked my last email to him regarding Hotspots business, the subject line was “time to relax.” God knows, I did not want him to take it literally by going to his eternal resting place.
William Calcaterra, aka Pompano Bill, was born on January 12th, 1926 in Norway, Michigan. He had a normal childhood, however, as he matured, he realized that he was different. Back then the word gay wasn’t used, instead the word was “queer.” Growing up in such a small town of 3,728 people, he kept his difference suppressed.
He graduated high school in June of 1944 and was immediately inducted into the Navy, attended Radio Operator School in Madison, Wisconsin and was assigned to a ship in the Pacific Theatre. World War II ended and he returned to the U.S.
While still on active duty and stationed in San Francisco he stumbled into a bar on Market Street, not realizing it was a bar frequented by homosexuals, and was invited out for cocktails at the Saint Francis Hotel and treated to a weekend of fun and luxury. He saw that gentleman again during the week. Although he said the experience was amazing, shortly afterwards he got his discharge papers and returned home, where he again went into suppressing his desires. A year later, with the GI Bill, he went to Ferris State College and then moved to Detroit and completed his education at the Detroit Institute of Technology. It was in Detroit that he really discovered gay life.
While in Detroit he had his first relationship, which ended due to his partner being drafted for the Korean War. After graduating from college, he joined IBM (which Bill says stands for I’ve been moved) in 1951, where he stayed until retirement 36 years later in 1987. During his employment at IBM he made his way up to middle management and was transferred to many places throughout the country.
Eventually, Bill had the good sense to move to the Florida. After a few years he became bored and bought a camera. In 1992 he started his second career as a photographer and was published as Pompano Bill in Scoop Magazine. Since then he has worked for Outlook, Buzz, 411, Express, The Blade and, for the last dozen years or so he was very happy shooting exclusively for Hotspots Magazine. Over the years he has accumulated tens of thousands of pictures, which have become his life, he says they are like his friends. He had all his old photos organized in shoe boxes and digital images were stored on 2 computers. He often wondered what the stories were behind some of the people he captured on film when he looked back at them. As many of you know, Pompano Bill had a huge heart and donated much of his time to charities including Poverello, Tuesdays Angels, Broward House, The Pride Center and so many others.
Scott Holland once asked Pompano Bill: What are the benefits of living longer?
Bill replied: “You can teach an old dog new tricks, outliving a few assholes, the ability to meet and enjoy younger people…especially those that like to hear about gay history that I experienced.”
A CELEBRATION OF LIFE
Many have asked if funeral or memorial services will be taking place. One of Bill’s closest friends, Toni Barone, reminded me that he did not want anything special or grandiose after his passing. It is our understanding that a few family members will be arriving to discuss plans and we will announce the outcome of their decision the moment it happens. One thing is certain, if a celebration of life takes place, it will be one to remember!
Now, I find myself trying to fill yet, another hole in my heart…
A special thanks goes to Scott Holland for contributing the biographical content of this article
From a Grateful Community
Last week, our community lost an icon and friend. Bill touch many lives over the decades as he served our community, not only as a photographer but as a mentor and friend to many. With so many condolences still pouring in, we thought the best way to communicate our feelings just was to capture a few comments that capture the essence of a man who was loved and admired by so many:
Brad Casey: Dear Friend
It has been a day of reflection on my 27 year of friendship and association with Bill Calcaterra, Pompano Bill. It’s been a difficult day but I am at peace with his passing. Both Pompano and I knew his day of crossing the Rainbow were near. He was tired of fighting Cancer and loosing his eyesight. He now can see clearly and can rest. Thank You Pompano Bill for an amazing 27 years.
Richard Gray: Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB
He was an amazing man with an incredible zest for life.
Michael Goodman: Public Relations
He was so much a part of our community. I have very fond memories of him. He left his mark.
Billy Sand: Friend
R I P. Will always love him
Stephen R. Lang: Co-worker and dear friend
I don’t know what exactly to say and I have loved this man since the second time I met him. [The first time he did his groping thing.] We have had a wild ride standing next to and he ALWAYS looked out for me and making sure I was getting my shots and doing my job. I remember one of his BIGGEST warning about nightclubs was the smoke and how he got some sort of Cancer from it. He was a Trooper and loved my many–including myself. Una famiglia italiana e un dono di Dio.
Michael Albetta: Broward Sherriff Community Liaison
Memories captured from my dear good friend who now rests in Heaven, William “Bill” Calcaterra aka POMPANO BILL.. Our beloved LGBT community will miss him more than we think. Let’s honor one last request from Pompano Bill: GET OUT TO VOTE AND VOTE DEMOCRATIC!
Jose Javier: Friend
I think every gay man in South Florida has a picture taken by him. I never got a chance to have a long conversation with him, but the short chat after he had taken a picture where always nice. Will be missed. Rest in peace Pompano Bill Calcaterra.
Mike Trottier: Co-worker and dear friend
Pompano Bill…You can rest now my friend. Miss you already Peanut Butter!
Row lliescu: Equality Florida
Don’t be sad! Of course, we will miss you, Pompano Bill—but what a life you lived–an example to all of us to seize the day and make the most of every situation–or so it seemed. Indeed, the place won’t be the same without you, but it’s immeasurably better because of you. I look forward to celebrating your life with the throngs who adored you.
Steven Walker: Friend
I was in two of his photos in Hotspots Magazine. One all dressed up at The Opera Broward Center, the other less put together in the pool at Inn Leather-tee hee!
Ken Evans: Our Fund
Sad to learn of the passing of Pompano Bill. A wonderful friend to so many of us in the LGBTQ community. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Bill without a smile or his camera ready to take that perfect shot. He will be greatly missed by our community. Thank you for all the memories Pompano…Rest In Peace good friend.
Howard Andrew: Talent Scout
I found myself driving to Pompanos Bills house today, and sitting in the car outside of his home. Shaking my head for not stopping by earlier, and for always saying I’ll stop by tomorrow I’ll stop by tomorrow I’ll stop by tomorrow. We’ll, tomorrow has come and Bill has gone. Don’t wait to see friends and loved ones…. Don’t miss the chance to tell someone you love them. Life is short….. Rip Bill
Robin Bodiford: Attorney
I loved Pompano Bill. He had such a wonderful vibe and over the years such a big part of our community and also chronicled our community.
Kevin Clevenger, Poverello
Rest in peace Pompano Bill
Kenneth Flood: The Pub
So sad to hear of the passing of Pompano Bill Calcaterra. I have known this man pretty much since day one when I first moved to Fort Lauderdale. He was such a kind wonderful man. He always greeted me with a Hug & a Kiss(or three,LOL). I am saddened by the loss of this man, a treasure, R.I.P. my friend.
Daniel Curtis: Friend
I’m celebrating the life of my friend Mr Pompano Bill Calcaterra.
The Snapchat & Instagram of his time from the Golden Cost to the Golf Cost South Florida has been best pictured by you!
I’ll lend you my ear anytime! Thank you for for your gifts the smiles & magic in our memories! You’re having a great time in the afterlife this I’m sure!
Salute and cheers my friend…
Jim Libonati: Friend and former Hotspots Executive
I miss him very much; like others we had a great history as friends, and he was once my neighbor back in the late 80’s… RIP My dear Friend!
Gary Resnick: Mayor, Wilton Manors
“Our community has lost an Icon and a loving man who gave so much to so many”
Toni Barone: Close Friend, Community Leader
“How do you say goodbye to such an Icon? Our community will come together and heal but right now, we are still coming to terms with our loss.
Steve and Zak: Owners of Ramrod
We grieve the sudden loss of a long-time community member and dear friend
Michael Murphy: Photographer
I’m not sure how to express my love for Pompano, my own shortened nickname, in a paragraph. Over 25 years of sharing great images with one another, playfully bumping each other while shooting, comparing butts and bulges and yes telling secrets. I’m grateful that he had the best life, surrounded by so many people that loved him and that he loved even more. Many of us forget that when he was young and gay, he couldn’t be out.
So, his last 25 years, the 25 I got to enjoy alongside of him, truly were his Golden Years and he lived every minute to the fullest! I love you Pompano!
Watch for next week’s edition of Hotspots for a special photographic retrospective of Pompano Bill’s life and legacy.